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This Week in Science: May 23, 2008

Australia's Labor government's new spending plan is getting mixed reviews. The budget includes a trust fund for education initiatives, with $10.5 billion for higher education infrastructure, but it also contains cuts for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization.

UC-Merced faculty and students review two new books on systems biology. One, Systems Biology: Philosophical Foundations, stems from a symposium at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and the other is Uri Alon's An Introduction to Systems Biology: Design Principles of Biological Circuits. The authors write that Philosophical Foundations sees systems biology as "largely cell biology" and has the "whimsical" idea that systems biology is separate from evolutionary biology. On the other hand, Introduction, the authors say, "aims to provide a mathematical framework … to foster understanding of biological networks."

Researchers led by Phillip Zamore identified endogenous siRNAs in Drosophila melanogaster derived from transposons and others that are complementary to mRNAs. The authors hypothesize that these endo-siRNAs silence selfish genetic elements in body cells similar to the way Piwi-interacting RNAs act in germ cells. A Perspectives piece looks at this and five related studies that all show the interplay of the small RNA pathways.

Philippe Froguel and his colleagues report that a polymorphism in the G6PC2 gene, which encodes glucose-6-phosphatase catalytic subunit–related protein, is related to fasting plasma glucose levels in people. From a genome-wide association study of 654 non-obese people with normal glycemic indices, the researchers saw the strongest signal from a SNP in the third intron of the G6PC2 gene. The authors think G6PC2 regulates fasting glucose levels by modulating the set point of insulin secretion stimulated by glucose.


The Scan

Renewed Gain-of-Function Worries

The New York Times writes that the pandemic is renewing concerns about gain-of-function research.

Who's Getting the Patents?

A trio of researchers has analyzed gender trends in biomedical patents issued between 1976 and 2010 in the US, New Scientist reports.

Other Uses

CBS Sunday Morning looks at how mRNA vaccine technology could be applied beyond SARS-CoV-2.

PLOS Papers Present Analysis of Cervicovaginal Microbiome, Glycosylation in Model Archaea, More

In PLOS this week: functional potential of the cervicovaginal microbiome, glycosylation patterns in model archaea, and more.